If you know me and my story, you know that I’ve accomplished a lot. From landing my dream job turned beautiful nightmare in the music industry to taking a leap of faith into my purpose to start Embrace Her Legacy to becoming an author, motivational speaker, spiritual teacher, host of the Embrace Her Legacy podcast and creator of all our personal development programs You might know that I’ve been featured in ESSENCE, Latina, Heart & Soul and others. Not to mention, I have a powerful network of supporters that include influencers, leaders, executives and key tastemakers…one of these supporters have been my best friend Irene.
I wanted to tell you Irene’s story because I would not be who I am without her.
Irene grew up in the projects of East New York, Brooklyn. The both of us like to have fun so when we met in our teen years it was nothing for us to have a few drinks, but Irene would take it overboard sometimes and get out of control. I would ask her why she partied so hard, smoked so much weed and drank so much. She let me know that she grew up in that environment. Her entire family drank and alcoholism ran ramped in her family. As a matter of fact, she shared that one of her most earliest memories was of her father being passed out drunk with her in the park. He fell asleep on the bench and left her there but a friendly stranger walked her home. Luckily as she was walking home. Irene’s brother and mother were on their way to the park to look for her. She told me that her father’s binges on alcohol like this were common in her childhood as she would have to go looking for him at local liquor stores but she knew that he loved her. A few years ago her father was delivered from alcoholism so we can praise God for that one.
But as a result of her father’s alcoholism, being from the projects and having a mother that never made her feel good enough out of her own insecurities, Irene always carried shame but you could never tell. She always wore the hottest clothes, had the latest Jordan’s and wore the biggest smile. All of our friends envied her. Until one day while were in the 11th grade, Irene had a failed suicide attempt. She was carrying so much pain and didn’t want to deal with it anymore. I asked her why she did it and she said that she always felt lonely and misunderstood – she was crying for help.
But she got her act together as a friend told her in the hospital room that God had her here for a reason and her life had purpose. She never heard that before so she never forgot it. We ended up going to college together but those feelings of shame and low self-worth followed her so she did anything to find meaning, approval and validation. She would drink, smoke, party and boy did she have a thing for guys. It was nothing for her to have guys fall in love with her left and right, she found validation out of all the guys she dated and slept with, it gave her a sense of power.
We both graduated and went our own ways after college but those feelings of shame kept following Irene. She had this amazing job but she was still looking for meaning and validation – the drinking had gotten worse, she tried to make more money to heal her wounds of shame and never feeling good enough, the addiction to weed had excelled and she was even arrested for it!
She still wasn’t fulfilled. She never ever felt that she was good enough because of being from the projects and she carried shame from the regretful decisions of her past. She had a dream to start her own business but she feared being ridiculed by her family, failure and the cost she would have to pay to live her dreams. But we encouraged each other to finally pursue our dreams of becoming entrepreneurs and we did! She found this new relationship and faith in God that inspired me! She even stopped smoking and the drinking reduced dramatically!
But Irene had to go back home in order to save money and build her dream business, being back in that environment fueled old feelings. Not to mention, building her business was harder than she thought. She had saved almost $30,000 to start her business/live on but after 2 years, all the money was gone. She tried to make her business prosper but she was met with failure after failure and rejection after rejection. Then the relationship that she was in for over 9 years ended with a unforeseen betrayal to her heart. The pain was unbearable, she had lost it all in pursuit of her dreams. She had lost her money, her comfort, her man and her business wasn’t doing what she needed it do. She thought she was doing the right thing because she knew in her heart this business was something God put in her heart to do. But she didn’t think that she would lose it all in the process.
So she went back to that 17 year old girl and those familiar demons of not feeling good enough, feeling alone, feeling rejected were screaming in her mind. She wanted out again, she was tired of the pain, she was tired of the disappointment, she was tired of the financial hardships, she was tired of not having anyone understand her, she was tired of trying. So last year, she went for the pills and started to pop them in her mouth. But this time, something made her throw them back up. While balling in tears in fetal position on her bathroom floor, she let everything out.
I was so worried about my friend but little did I know that she made a decision on that bathroom floor to fight for her destiny. She told me that she realized that she had a Savior who took all the shame and hurt from her and that even though she had experienced trial after trial that she would get up and fight. No devil in hell was going to steal her destiny,
Irene woke up the next day a warrior in God’s army, fighting for her destiny. She decided that she would take full control of the story she wanted to tell. She would be the one to break generational curses of alcoholism, poverty, broken marriages and start generational blessings, a legacy of prosperity, faith, wholeness, happy families, and doing what God had created us to. She lives by this mantra “one monkey won’t stop my show.” She changed her story from a victim to a victor. She knew the story she wanted to tell her grandchildren one day and giving into the lies from her past, the shame or the opposition she faced would no longer be her story.
I looked at Irene in the mirror this morning proud, as my name is Maria Irene Melendez. See I can act like I got it all together, you see my accomplishments but you don’t know my story. We can be fooled in this age of social media to compare ourselves to one another, thinking that everyone else has it all together while we’re suffering behind closed doors. But I am living proof that you are not alone and no matter how bright someone’s smile is or pretty their pictures are, you never know how they are suffering. It’s by the grace of God that I am here today.
Although I had accomplished so much in my life, I was still that broken little 4 year old girl who’s father left her at the park for any stranger to kidnap. I never dealt with my wounds and I masked my insecurities in accomplishments, a career and relationships, looking for meaning until I was stripped of it all and that’s when I learned that before I am anything else, I am a child of God. I never needed anything to approve me because God had already accepted, approved, redeemed, restored and breathed His spirit into me.
So I leave you with this. What story do you want to tell? See we’re taught not to be transparent not realizing that the very thing you struggle with privately, those messes that we all deal with, God can turn into a message – a message of hope and inspiration or to tell someone else “I’ve been there before.”
When you are faced with life’s challenges – the wounds that will come in the form of failures, betrayals, hurts, setbacks, delays – you choose how you will respond by choosing what story you want to tell at the end of your life. Do you want your story to be the one of the woman who was paralyzed by fear so you never stepped out on that dream or you do want to tell the story of the woman who looked her giants in the face and made it happen? Do you want to be the woman who constantly needs the approval of others or do you want to be the woman who knew her worth and never allowed anyone to steal her joy? Do you want your story to be the one who jumped from bed to bed looking for love or do you want to be the woman was so secure in God’s love that her swag brought all the right type of dudes to her? Do you want your story to be that you never wrote that song, wrote that book, starred in that movie, developed that app, performed that surgery, won that case, built that business because it got hard and you gave up? Or do you want to be the one who slayed her goals? Do you want to be the woman who was too afraid to share her story or do you want to be the woman who boldly shares her testimony?
Don’t let your past hold your future hostage. You are not your mistakes, you are not your circumstances, you are not your family drama, you are not the addictions, you are not the depression, you are not those lying thoughts telling you that you’re not good enough!
I want you to embrace the power in your story! You know I’m here to help you too, so you can enroll in my Embracing the Power In Your Story course here to help you gain the confidence to tell your story! I show you how to overcome low self-worth and how to avoid the traps of looking for meaning and validation in things outside of yourself and I’ll show you how to understand who you are, not what you do but who you are.
Don’t sit there any longer, someone is waiting to hear your story.
Maria I. Melendez
Embrace Her Legacy